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Wayne Rooney signs for Derby County

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Wayne Rooney has signed with Derby County. Yes. You read that correctly.

Rooney, 33, has signed an initial 18-month contract with the English second-tier team in a player-coach role, as he will play out the rest of the Major League Soccer season and arrive at Derby on January 1. There is an option to extend the contract by a further year.

England’s all-time leading goalscorer flew to the UK overnight and was spotted at London’s Heathrow airport before heading to Derby. Rooney was then seen at Derby’s training ground in the UK ahead of finalizing his shock move from D.C. United.

Speaking about his return to England, Rooney thanked D.C. United’s owners for allowing the move to happen.

“I am very excited about the opportunity that Derby County have provided me with,” Rooney said. “I am looking forward to joining Phillip Cocu, his coaching staff and the first-team squad from the start of January. I am sure I can make a big contribution and can’t wait to meet everyone, especially the supporters. I am equally excited to begin my coaching career at Derby County working with both the first team and Academy. I must also take this opportunity to thank DC United, their owners, executives and supporters who have been superb to work with. I want them to know that I will give my all in support of our push for the play-offs.”

D.C. United’s chairmen revealed that Rooney requested the move back to England duo to his family not settling in the USA following his move last summer.

“After speaking to Wayne and understanding his difficult situation of being so far away from his family, we have accepted that this is the best decision for all parties,” Steve Kaplan and Jason Levien, D.C. United Co-Chairmen said.

Ola Kamara is set to replace Rooney, with the Norwegian international and former LA Galaxy star to head back to MLS from China for a transfer fee in the region of $2.5 million.

Derby owner Mel Morris spoke about another huge coup for the Rams, which follows the hiring of Frank Lampard last season before he moved on to coach Chelsea, then getting in Dutch legend Phillip Cocu to replace him.

“This is clearly an exciting signing for us, and Wayne’s presence will further enhance the club’s standing and its ability to perform both on and off the pitch. To have Wayne Rooney as a player, and equally as an aspiring coach, is incredible and I can only imagine the buzz this will generate amongst our supporters at home and internationally. First and foremost, Wayne is joining us as a player but he will also have coaching responsibilities too, particularly around the development of our younger players progressing towards the first-team from our Academy, as he looks to gain his relevant qualifications for a future coaching and management career. I would like to express a sincere thanks to DC United for their professionalism throughout this process. We wish them every success for the remainder of their season.”

This is  a huge blow for DCU’s hopes of winning the Eastern Conference this season and making a splash in the playoffs.

Rooney’s move to MLS was scrutinized by many after his minutes dwindled at both Man United and Everton over the past few seasons, but he’s been a star.

From goals inside his own half to stunning individual displays, Rooney has scored 25 goals in 45 appearances for D.C. United and dragged them from last in the East last season to the playoffs.

But the lure of returning to England to start his coaching career was too strong, as he’s spoken about a desire to coach on many occasions and he’ll be following in the footsteps of Lampard, John Terry, Steven Gerrard and others from England’s so-called ‘Golden Generation’ of players.

QPR close in on USMNT’s Geoff Cameron

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Geoff Cameron looks set to head back to Queens Park Rangers, but this time permanently.

Cameron, 34, spent last season on loan at QPR from Stoke City and the U.S. men’s national team midfielder was a huge hit at Loftus Road.

He currently has one year left on his contract at Stoke but Pro Soccer Talk understands that QPR are waiting for Cameron’s situation at Stoke to be sorted out before making their move. It is believed Cameron’s future at Stoke will become clearer in the coming 24 hours, as he prefers a permanent move away from the bet365 Stadium rather than another loan deal.

The versatile American didn’t travel with Stoke City’s first team squad on their preseason tour of the Netherlands and is among eight players — Bojan, Gianni Imbula, Kevin Wimmer, Mame Biram Diouf and Moritz Bauer are also among that list — who were not part of Nathan Jones’ plans as he rebuilds the Potters following their relegation from the Premier League during the 2017-18 season.

Cameron ranks sixth all-time in terms of PL appearances for Stoke and played in six-straight seasons in England’s top-flight, as the Potters finished in ninth place three seasons on the trot under Mark Hughes during that stretch.

Following Stoke’s relegation Cameron went on loan to QPR and played 19 times for the west London club but suffered a serious ankle ligament injury in December and he didn’t fully recover until April. Before that injury he was hailed as a key man in QPR’s early-season push for promotion under former boss Steve McLaren, but that push fell apart midway through the season and coincided with Cameron’s injury.

QPR’s new manager, Mark Warburton, has already signed eight new players this summer but he’s spent a grand total of $70,000 with the R’s believed to be in a seriously restricted financial situation following their overspending and relegation from the Premier League in 2015. They are expected to make an outside push for the playoffs in the Championship this season, with a midtable finish more likely.

As for Cameron, the Massachusetts native has been linked with a return to Major League Soccer with the LA Galaxy and others but the former Houston Dynamo star has previously revealed his desire to stay in Europe and particularly in England.

A mainstay of the USMNT under Jurgen Klinsmann, Cameron has made 53 appearances for the U.S. and scored four goals. He was influential in their run to the Round of 16 at the 2014 World Cup and their appearance in the semifinals of the 2016 Copa America Centenario.

However, Cameron hasn’t featured for the USMNT since 2017 after criticizing former head coach Bruce Arena and the U.S. Soccer Federation in the wake of their shocking failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup finals.

Championship wrap: Promotion race intensifies

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As always, things got weird and wild in England’s second-tier on Friday.

Leeds United lost at home to 10-man relegation battlers Wigan Athletic 2-1, despite taking the lead early and Wigan playing a man down for over 75 minutes.

Pablo Hernandez missed an early penalty kick for Marcelo Bielsa’s side who have now dropped out of the automatic promotion spots with three games of the season to go and no longer have their destiny in their own hands. This defeat marked the first time this season that Leeds have lost a game after taking the lead.

As for their main rivals for automatic promotion, Sheffield United rallied in the second half to beat Nottingham Forest on Friday and moved into second behind Norwich City as Blades boss Chris Wilder has done a magnificent job for the club he supports.

Norwich look certainties for promotion and their return to the PL after a three-year absence could be confirmed on Monday, while Sheffield United know they will be back in the Premier League for the first time since 2007 if they win their final three games of the season.

In the playoff race, West Brom, Aston Villa and Middlesbrough all won to sit in fourth, fifth and sixth respectively, while Bristol City and Derby are hanging around just outside the playoff spots with draws to set up a frantic final few weeks. There are some huge teams pushing to be in the playoffs and have a chance of playing in the richest game in soccer at Wembley on May 27, and Villa are the form team right now with nine-straight wins.

At the other end of the table, Bolton’s defeat at home to Villa means they were relegated to the third-tier and they will join Ipswich Town in League One for next season, while Rotherham and Millwall battle to stay out of the final relegation spot.

Below is a look at the standings and points in the promotion race, as the battle to get into the Premier League for the 2019-20 rages on.


As things stand – Championship table, promotion race

Automatic promotion
1st: Norwich City – Played 42, points 86
2nd: Sheffield United – Played 43, points 82

Playoff picture
3rd: Leeds United – Played 43, points 82
4th: West Brom – Played 43, points 76
5th: Aston Villa – Played 43, points 72
6th: Middlesbrough – Played 43, points 67

Pushing for playoffs
7th: Bristol City – Played 42, points 66
8th: Derby County – Played 42, points 64

Fan who punched Grealish jailed; gets 10-year stadium ban

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The justice system in the UK has acted swiftly, as the fan who punched Jack Grealish on Sunday has already been sent to prison.

Paul Mitchell, a Birmingham City fan, pleaded guilty to all charges and was sentenced to 14 weeks in prison. He has also been banned from going to any football stadium in the UK for the next 10 years and was fined $458.

Mitchell, 27, ran onto the pitch during the second-city derby in England’s second-tier on Sunday and punched Aston Villa star Grealish.

The Villa captain was knocked to the floor, but then had the last laugh as he went on to score the winning goal in a 1-0 victory.

[ MORE: Grealish reacts to being punched ]

Birmingham City have released a statement on the fan being jailed.

“Birmingham City Football Club welcomes the sentence handed down to Paul Mitchell by Birmingham Magistrates today. What he did was unacceptable and has no place in football. The Club can confirm that Mr Mitchell is banned from our home ground, the St. Andrew’s Trillion Trophy Stadium, for life. And nor will he have access to purchase tickets for away games involving Birmingham City Football Club, or have tickets purchased on his behalf.”

“The Club has also banned another supporter for life for a series of vile and malicious Tweets on social media, relating to Jack Grealish and his family. The individual in question remains the subject of an ongoing investigation by West Midlands Police.”

Click play on the video above to watch the shocking incident, as three separate incidents involving fans running on the pitch took place over the weekend in the UK.

Glasgow Rangers James Tavernier was confronted by a Hibernian fan in Edinburgh on Friday, while Man United’s Chris Smalling was barged into by an Arsenal fan who ran onto the pitch at the Emirates Stadium in celebration on Sunday.

FA Cup fourth round score predictions

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The fourth round of the FA Cup has arrived, as 13 Premier League clubs remain in the competition.

With four all-PL ties, there will only be a maximum of nine top-flight teams in the last 16.

[ LIVE: Follow all the FA Cup games ]

With 32 teams remaining, some of the lower league clubs can smell the upsets against and are still dreaming of a dramatic run to the semifinals and final at Wembley in April and May.

But in the here and now, there’s no doubt that the tie of the round takes place on Friday as Arsenal host Manchester United in a heavyweight clash at the Emirates Stadium. Arsenal have won the FA Cup three times in the last five years, while United reached the final last season and won the trophy in 2016.

Some other standout fixtures sees Crystal Palace host Tottenham in a London derby, while Man City host Burnley and Watford travel to Newcastle in the other clash between PL clubs.

Focusing on potential upsets, Newport County head to Middlesbrough after beating Leicester City last time out, while Wimbledon host West Ham and Everton head to Millwall for tough encounters. Holders Chelsea host second-tier Sheffield Wednesday.

Below is the full schedule for the FA Cup games over the next few days, as we have also given our score predictions.


Friday
2:45 p.m. ET: Bristol City 2-1 Bolton Wanderers
2:55 p.m. ET: Arsenal 1-2 Manchester United

Saturday (all kicks off 10 a.m. ET, unless otherwise stated)
7:30 a.m. ET: Accrington Stanley 0-3 Derby County
Doncaster Rovers 2-0 Oldham Athletic
Newcastle United 2-2 Watford
Middlesbrough 1-2 Newport County
Manchester City 3-1 Burnley
Portsmouth 1-2 QPR
Swansea City 3-1 Gillingham
Brighton & Hove Albion 1-2 West Bromwich Albion
Shrewsbury Town 1-3 Wolverhampton Wanderers
12:30 p.m. ET: Millwall 1-1 Everton
2:45 p.m. ET: AFC Wimbledon 1-3 West Ham United

Sunday
11 a.m. ET: Crystal Palace 1-2 Tottenham Hotspur
1 p.m. ET: Chelsea 3-0 Sheffield Wednesday

Monday
2:45 p.m. ET: Barnet 1-2 Brentford